Argument over Te Reo at bank goes viral

A video of an argument between a Whakatane woman and a bank teller about Te Reo has gone viral. Watch the video below.

A woman is shocked after being involved in a verbal conflict with a teller at a Whakatane bank earlier this week.

Ripeka Lessels entered the Credit Union Central Kopeopeo branch to withdraw money, writing her withdrawal slip in Maori.

A conflict between Ripeka and the teller then occurred, after she was asked to rewrite the slip in English.

“The teller insisted I write it in English, which I declined to do as Maori is an official language,” says Ripeka.

The manager of the branch was contacted shortly after the incident occurred, and a video of the argument was posted to Facebook where it became viral.

“I was shocked that in this day and age, and in a community that has the highest population for native Maori speakers alive, that this blatant discrimination occurred where an official language of New Zealand was not allowed.”

She says the incident highlights a need for all banks in New Zealand to review their current standards and ensure they recognize all official languages.

Credit Union Central operations manager Matthew Heke says he is disappointed in the incident.

“It is not something that would normally be said and unfortunately it's highlighted the need for our staff to be upskilled on our official languages and Treaty obligations.”

“We are currently dealing with the situation itself and making contact with Ripeka, bringing her on to upskilling our own staff on being more sensitive and responsible on our official languages, the Treaty obligations and how best to move forward.”

Matthew says there is no current policy within Credit Union Central which rejects the use of any of New Zealand's official languages in the bank.

“It's the law, it's used in Parliament, it's used in the Courts, it's up to us to provide appropriate training or translators if need be.”


Can someone who....

Posted on 12-09-2017 00:17 | By GreertonBoy

is fluent in te reo please translate this sentence for me. "I would like to withdraw $1,045.00 from my savings account, put $300.00 into my visa card, pay $500.00 onto my mortgage for my house, $50.00 on my car payment and I would like the rest in cash. Then, can you tell me the balance in my account" ..... I would really like to see that written in te reo, because I am keen to learn. Only in te reo please, I would like to compare it to English. If someone could write it as an example, I would appreciate it.

@ All

Posted on 07-09-2017 01:02 | By MISS ADVENTURE

Still cant get past the first comment on this string, got it nailed on one! "Captain Sensible" good on ya mate!

If the entire thread is negative,

Posted on 05-09-2017 07:47 | By R. Bell

why do you participate missy? Fact is bullying takes place in our society in many forms. It could be argued that the teller was bullying, after all he did NOT represent bank policy, as proven above. Rather he represented the common intolerance exemplified by you. Robin Bell.

@ overit

Posted on 04-09-2017 13:51 | By MISS ADVENTURE

Yes, bully type behaviour, perhaps we should talk to master bella in korean (north) and see how he responds to that, that would be equally ignorant behaviour. The reality is here that this female was set on creating a scene and deliberately. There is no decent reason to try and make something good of it, when there is only mischievious intent from teh start. master bella how about you and the female go set up a TuHoe bank and make it all fake tereo and see how long that lasts, good luck and good riddence. PS ... when are you leaveing? Need to organise a party to celebrate.

@ Rrrrr Bella

Posted on 04-09-2017 13:46 | By MISS ADVENTURE

Says "eli-min-ate the negative" but in fact the entire thread is nothing but, bit of the pot calling the kettle black when not so.


Posted on 01-09-2017 14:32 | By jed

"A bank can operate its business any way it likes. "Noone can operate how they like. There are laws and regulations.


Posted on 29-08-2017 18:48 | By overit

Most reasonable NZers would think this womans actions were OTT. It was unnecessary, hardly the right way to go about things. She is a bully.

Ac-cent-tchu-ate the positive Nzer,

Posted on 27-08-2017 10:05 | By R. Bell

and eli-min-ate the negative. That's what I do, that's what the bank has done, end of. You on the other hand continue to " speak" for the rest of NZers. WOW!!!! HOW DELUDED IS THAT. Robin Bell.


Posted on 24-08-2017 17:44 | By NZer

A bank can operate its business any way it likes. If you dont like what the bank offers go somewhere else. Or put your money where your mouth is and start your own bank which has tellers that can understand English, Te Reo and sign language. No need to continually whine when the rest of NZ does not agree with your agender. Looks like you are again in the minority trying to tell the majority what to do and how to think again. No suprises there.

Is this a wind up, or what???

Posted on 22-08-2017 08:24 | By R. Bell

This bank operates in the heart of Tuhoe country. High density Maori speaking. Common sense tells us that the bank is correct ( not the teller) to accommodate Te Reo. They have. End of. The usual poverty of mis sads comment is self explanatory. Laurie, get some education. The words you look for are mano= one thousand and kore= zero as in kore take. Ask someone. Numerals are international and belong to no particular language. Just trying to help!!!! Robin Bell.

The rights and wrongs of it when the Bell rings

Posted on 21-08-2017 15:31 | By MISS ADVENTURE

Common sense, fancy that! You must have tripped over that when reading something somewhere or heaven forgbid someone said it and you "heard" it. Then have simply repeated it. Do you bow believe?


Posted on 21-08-2017 13:04 | By Laurie

But I have a question for Mr Bell & others supporting what this women did.As there is no maori word equivalent to zero how would you write a withdrawl slip or cheque for one thousand dollars, would it be tahi thousand & then as their is no maori numerics it would be $1000 which really sums it all up - te reo maori is not a complete language - so what is the point of pushing banks & other financial institutions into accepting its use on their documentation.


Posted on 21-08-2017 12:36 | By maildrop

I think I understand it. Upskilling/translators/change of processes costs money. Customers will pay for it. If people are happy with that they can shop there. Regardless of ethnicity. I don't see the big banks doing it as it isn't a commercial necessity or USP. Maybe one day it will be. I'm not sure targeting Credit Union is the wisest choice to further their cause. You know, there are many angles to look at something. It doesn't mean "lack of understanding" thank you. You can lead a horse to water but you can't make it drink.

Maildrop, activism is ugly.

Posted on 21-08-2017 09:22 | By R. Bell

Maori activism is particularly ugly to non Maori who don't, or won't try to understand it. You consider this lady to be rude. I disagree, the teller was intransigent, she was insistent. Her cause will never be acceptable to some, however if you consider the great progress Maori have made since the 1970s, then you will perhaps understand the fact that most was achieved through activism such as this. Your comment on cost recovery, sums up both your lack of understanding of Maori aspirations and the part non Maori have to play in it. Robin Bell.


Posted on 20-08-2017 17:11 | By maildrop

I'm not so sure it is common sense. To "upskill" staff and change processes to accomodate this will result in costs to the business. This will inevitably be passed on to customers through rates and fees. Not explicitly, but hidden. Nonetheless, customers will need to pay for it. I'm not sure most of them, Maori or otherwise, would see that as a good thing? Regardless, I think she was rude and it doesn't do her or her cause any good.

The rights and wrongs of it,

Posted on 20-08-2017 08:49 | By R. Bell

the bank is under no obligation to accept any demand in Te Reo. That is a given. However this lady is entitled to present one. She has done so many times and found satisfaction. This bank operates in a high density Maori population, speaking their language first and foremost. Tga boy has it right,( and believe me I have never said that before) a simple exercise in diplomacy would have solved the problem, and I guarantee this will never happen again at that bank. Nothing to do with balls maildrop, just plain and simple common sense. Robin Bell.


Posted on 19-08-2017 17:19 | By maildrop

I think you're wrong. The bank has no obligation to provide Te Reo speakers anymore than Mandarin speakers, regardless of it being an official language. It's a private business. It has no more an obligation than KFC or the local dairy. Maybe she thought she was in court, where she does have a right to speak in "her" language. The bank has apologised simply for PR purposes and that it doesn't have the balls to tell her to do one. Personally I like Te Reo and would love to learn it, but that's not the point. Legally I think you're wrong, unless you can point me to the legislation that obligates a private business to provide such services?

Diplomacy is often all about time and place

Posted on 19-08-2017 17:10 | By Papamoaner

Whilst I support maori language, which by the way is beautiful compared to gutteral english, but short on vocabulary, her timing and manner was inappropriate, bordering on arrogant in this instance.


Posted on 19-08-2017 13:27 | By Tgaboy

Most of you will recognise that sometimes all the pro-maori politics really brasses me off. Yet this time, despite the customers behaviour, I'm kind of with her. Writing something basic like a withdrawal slip in Maori should be ok. It is an official language here. The teller could have clarified the number and written it in English and got the client to initial it. The teller might have even learned something. I'm anti a lot of things but this ain't one. It's her money, it's her (and our) language. Deal with it with the same care you would an English speaking client.

The Tomahawk Kid?

Posted on 19-08-2017 11:12 | By MISS ADVENTURE

What about the rights of the Teller, not to be abused and publically as a result of teh inadequaces of a customer to converse in a language that matters. She has rights also, one being that if she chooses not to learn or know anything about Maori that is her "right". Jsut becasue another oddity labnguage is apparently offically able to be used does not mean that all citizens "must" use it. in fact that certainly impinges on the rights of the indiidual. INDIVIDUAL RIGHTS are a two way thing. It appears that this was intended to be more of a media circus that "news" or something important. INDIVIDUAL RIGHTS also need to be tempered, that the rights of a society as a whole can not be exceeded by the self desires of one individual. The NEEDS of the whole matter more than the NEDS of the one

Tomahawk Kid, your analogy is rubbish.

Posted on 19-08-2017 08:48 | By R. Bell

The lady in question asked for HER money, as she had many times before, in her language. The bank trades in money, not custard squares. She was within her "individual"rights covered by law. One teller does not "make the bank". The bank has apologised, tellers make mistakes. One day you will realise this lady made a stand that may benefit us all, after all you "champion" individual rights. Or do you? Robin Bell.

Trouble maker

Posted on 19-08-2017 07:56 | By kinakat

When I need to go to a bank and deal with a bank teller.It's for monetary reasons ie deposit or withdrawal OK.Obviously the women was searching for some viral media glory! Teno Paid girl you got what you were searching for.Maybe we Maori should also have our own money currency as well imagine that!!!.

@ sharon69nz

Posted on 18-08-2017 23:23 | By MISS ADVENTURE

Money shuffling Turei style?

But why?.......

Posted on 18-08-2017 22:53 | By groutby

....does this this client, clearly agitated (vocal) and expecting all to be well with a private institution which chooses not to conduct business in such way, expect anything differently?.. there is clearly not only possible illegal recording, but more specifically an overpowering desire to be, well, just damn' awkward. A cheque?...who has them now?..a piece of paper from the past. If you want to conduct banking (and why does this person "deal" with so many banks one may ask) in this way in a modern environment, try doing it online and getting past the voice messages in TeReo!!..good luck with that one. My sympathies to the bank (and others) concerned.

Looking for a fight

Posted on 18-08-2017 22:34 | By lpm67

This woman was simply looking for a fight and this is obviously her personal agenda. I have met this woman and had to sit through her diatribe of telling me in maori what she thought my pedigree was simply because I'm a blue eyed blonde, she had no idea that I am fluent in Te Reo and that my tribe is Ngai Tahu, which has far more mana than hers by the way. She is an abusive madam who likes to pick fights and Te Reo is her favorite avenue

Bank fees will increase ....

Posted on 18-08-2017 21:13 | By MISS ADVENTURE

So now banks will want an interpreter in every branch, someone has to pay for that, look at teh bank fees take another hike. This whole thing is as rediculous as Queerbec, a bankrupt state of Canada.

What Treaty obligations?

Posted on 18-08-2017 21:11 | By MISS ADVENTURE

There are no obligations arising from the treaty that are relevant to what happened.

Brains department?

Posted on 18-08-2017 21:09 | By MISS ADVENTURE

Next I am sure someone will expect to make a withdrawal via sign-langauage next. Tehre are about as many chinese in NZ as part Maori, so is that to be recognised also? What about Spainish, one of the main world wide languages. The whole line of teh article is a meaningless hype of something of zero value.

A need to know

Posted on 18-08-2017 21:06 | By MISS ADVENTURE

Dont need to know, in fact rather insulting to present something to the teller with the likely result of unable to be read. Cant expect 94% of NZ population to know a language that is not theirs, totally pointless.


Posted on 18-08-2017 15:37 | By overit

how the news made Maori TV but not the other 2 main channels. I see she was Principal of a Maori school (possibly total immersion) - obviously she had a point to prove.

Democracy is dead

Posted on 18-08-2017 15:21 | By maildrop

We now live in a world where people cannot accept being a minority and "their rights" trump anybody else's. Everything becomes unworkable. Too many demands, not enough responsibility. I'm going to demand a left handed cheque book.


Posted on 18-08-2017 08:06 | By PersonWorm

Seems a bit rude on her part. I wonder how she would have felt if the teller had chosen to reply to her entirely in sign language.


Posted on 17-08-2017 21:32 | By penguin

Refer to the two sites listed in this post. The argument is compelling regarding why English is not listed as an official language. One could split hairs over the issue, to be pragmatic, but English is accepted as an official NZ language. and

@Tomahawk Kid

Posted on 17-08-2017 18:51 | By Papamoaner

Bingo (pommie word). Best post yet mate. Can't argue with that common sense view,

Life is simpler when you acknowledge other peoples rights

Posted on 17-08-2017 17:51 | By The Tomahawk Kid

There is a little thing that is VERY important that most New Zealanders do not understand the importance of. They are called INDIVIDUAL RIGHTS ((the very same ones we love to destroy or give away at every opportunity)The bank, as a private business should have every right to make rules that apply to their business. If they decide the rule was for cheques to be written in RUSSIAN that is THEIR RIGHT. (they wouldnt get much business in NZ, but that is their right). Regardless of the accepted official languages of the country. This woman has done the equivalent of going into a shoe shop and DEMANDING they sell her a custard square. Take a lesson in rights people - life will be more straightforward when you understand others have them also. I suggest the lady goes to a bank that accepts cheques in Te Reo.

A matter of time.

Posted on 17-08-2017 16:55 | By morepork

Ever since I found out some years ago that English is NOT an official language in our country, I've been waiting for something like this to happen. The Law needs to be changed, but it probably won't be. The Bank are legally obliged to accept the slip in Te Reo. I don't see this as a "bad" thing; I see it rather as stupid that there is no option. If both English and Te Reo were legal languages, there WOULD be an option. The Bank could decide to support either or both official languages and many of their Te Reo-preferring customers would vote with their feet and go to another Bank. Provide translators or risk losing customers. As long as we live in a society that won't accept a level playing field under the law, for all, we are certainly not going to encourage wider use of Te Reo.


Posted on 17-08-2017 16:50 | By philiphallen

Sorry Penguin, English is NOT an official language in New Zealand. Hard to believe but check it out.

What next

Posted on 17-08-2017 16:31 | By roseh

English is what is used If things arent stopped soon people like her will try and take over the country.If she can speak it write is and stop being a smart A___.What ever next?????

A good try, but...

Posted on 17-08-2017 16:22 | By penguin

There are 3 official languages in NZ English, Maori and NZ Sign Language. Since the vast majority of people and written applications use English, then anyone desiring to use either Signing or Maori should be prepared to translate to English. This should be authenticated as well. It is not at all unreasonable to expect this. The woman in question should accept this as part of her desire to use Maori. Note also that her first name is an invention from the English Rebecca and last her name is clearly English. Methinks an exercise to test the system as shown by her recording the incident. By the way the Treaty had both languages.


Posted on 17-08-2017 15:58 | By Papamoaner

Unfortunately mate, consent of one party does it, and she is one party. Pity though.

account in english

Posted on 17-08-2017 15:56 | By sharon69nz

i bet she opened her account in english and didn't have a problem then . , why would someone need accounts at 4 or 5 different banks. if she is not happy then she can close her account and of course she set the teller up, most people who want to withdraw money would be upset about not getting their money instead of some argument over what written language it is in. she should either close her mouth or close her accounts

What a setup...

Posted on 17-08-2017 14:42 | By GreertonBoy

Surely a premeditated scene arranged to cause a problem. So, here we have a maori woman, speaking English, using secret recording devices to entrap a credit union worker. I would like to see something written in the maori language from before the white people arrived here... showing the macrons and all of the maori grammar and words. Any written words will do. I would also like to see cheques as they were presented before the white people arrived and how they compare to how cheques are written in English today? I feel sorry for the teller who was basically ambushed and secretly recorded . I wonder who paid her to do this or if she just did it for fun? Very cunning set up Mrs Lessels, you must be so proud....

Law Breaker?

Posted on 17-08-2017 13:45 | By swampdog

Isn't it illegal to record a conversation without the other party's consent? Isn't this the point of the Todd Barclay scandal?

She is a waste of space

Posted on 17-08-2017 13:42 | By normal local

I don't think the bank needs to change anything. She knows english and could have easily complied with what the teller asked (which wasn't unreasonable) but she chose to make a scene.This is why there is so much racism. People not being sensible.

time will fix this problem

Posted on 17-08-2017 13:20 | By Ammonite

Most preschoolers these days can count in Maori quite easily.


Posted on 17-08-2017 13:11 | By Capt_Kaveman

some countries you are not allowed to record in banks

Oh dear, Clue no1

Posted on 17-08-2017 12:34 | By outtogaze

Great to see a language dividing communities. Its great to see the racism coming to the fore. Oh even better how about we start acting like the good ol' US of A, where we cant even agree to disagree... The labelling and name calling really shows how backward thinking and inept a lot of New Zealanders are. Suggesting that it's okay to box a language and shelve it. Why because its too hard for those to speak, understand, don't give a damn or just plain racist. Clue had the language been adopted and encouraged instead of being outlawed and banned everything would be car pie.... ka pai ;)


Posted on 17-08-2017 12:27 | By rastus

This ignorance 'supposedly' on the rights of Maori is just so very stupid and non productive. So you have your own language - so what! All those people entering NZ from far off lands soon learn that to succeed in our english language country you have to learn English whether you like it or not - perhaps that is a reason why so many young Maori are failing! - say no more! (and please, all you ding dong 'do gooders' take a rest and start using some common sense - that would help us all)


Posted on 17-08-2017 12:08 | By Shocking!

When is NZ going to the draw the line on being 'racist' against people who are not Maori? I still can't believe this complete crap. Can we start up schools etc that is purely for non-maori kids? sure there would be an uprising then!!The government needs to STOP this before it gets even more out hand - seriously

A hangover from the bad old days.

Posted on 17-08-2017 11:29 | By R. Bell

When Te Reo was banned in schools. Ripeka had every right to expect service in her own official language. Wrong way to go about it, BUT why is it taking so long? Answer..... read the majority of comments below. Ignorance personified. Robin Bell.


Posted on 17-08-2017 11:03 | By dumbkof2

i love the way the teller kept his cool when confronted by this very rude wonan

Trouble right there

Posted on 17-08-2017 11:02 | By inthweedz

Agree with Captain Sensible as well.. She went looking for trouble, had her camera going just to set the teller up.. I say maybe get rid of cheques, that would be a good start to sort out this agro..


Posted on 17-08-2017 10:47 | By Laurie

Ripeka Lessels (not a maori surname - what country of origin is that?) went to the Credit Union intent on making a scene, the video recording proves that, the teller was within his rights to not accept the withdrawl slip & by the way how do you write a numeric dollar value in te reo maori??

te something or other

Posted on 17-08-2017 10:42 | By dumbkof2

mowree dont have an official written language so this cheque was not legal anyway

Set up

Posted on 17-08-2017 10:29 | By Draginz

She clearly set this up (otherwise why would she have started recording it), just trying to make a point - not a very good one though!


Posted on 17-08-2017 10:23 | By Colleen Spiro

She wasn't speaking Maori, because she would not get her point across @whatsinaname, AND if they taught Maori in Schools, in a few decades EVERYONE would understand it boobytrap....It was clear she was making a stance for everyone's right to use an official language of N Z to be used....Teach our children, they love learning, so they can teach you, if you have no pride in your country, to get off your noho and learn it yourself.

Agree with these comments

Posted on 17-08-2017 10:15 | By Border Patrol

I feel sorry for the bank worker just doing their job. I've been put in this situation before with someone writing a cheque out in maori and being belligerent about it when questioned. Why is there such a need to record situations now and place on social media? Everyone seems to want their two minutes of fame at the expense of others.

Totally agree Cap'n

Posted on 17-08-2017 10:06 | By RawPrawn

One only has to consult Uncle Google


Posted on 17-08-2017 10:05 | By Capt_Kaveman

credit union


Posted on 17-08-2017 10:03 | By Capt_Kaveman

bank with someone else or kiwibank should cancel her account

She Needs a Job

Posted on 17-08-2017 09:39 | By Boobytrap

Oh here we bloody go. Clearly she can speak English, so write in English!. Can't expect everybody to speak Maori. This just makes me anti having Te Reo being taught in schools.


Posted on 17-08-2017 09:38 | By whatsinaname

If she was so concerned about Maori language why wasn't she speaking it.

SO every bank (and business)

Posted on 17-08-2017 09:28 | By The Caveman

Now needs a translator, and don't for get that sign language is also an official language ! That makes it TWO translators in every business - and don't forget that, that they will want their lunch brake and holidays...................


Posted on 17-08-2017 09:06 | By Flick Chick

Totally agree Captain Sensible she should grow up and stop wasting busy peoples time

customer service

Posted on 17-08-2017 08:59 | By ow

shouldn't all business provide Te Reo fluent staff ?it is an official language.

Here we go again

Posted on 17-08-2017 08:59 | By overit

Another rort-so now every business etc is going to have to have someone speaking Te Reo. Yeah right.

Over the top

Posted on 17-08-2017 08:57 | By Papamoaner

I'm not against maori language being taught in schools, but this is a classic reminder that maori people have their fair share of posturing ratbags just as we pakeha do. I agree with the sentiment expressed by Capt Sensible this time.


Posted on 17-08-2017 08:33 | By fletch

I feel for the teller. That was just rude and why has she never done it before


Posted on 17-08-2017 08:16 | By dumbkof2

should have made her wait until an translarer arrived from rotorua or somewhere. absolute stupidity

attention seeker

Posted on 17-08-2017 07:44 | By Captain Sensible

Attention seeking moron.

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